NHL Adding Jersey Sponsors, Revenue in 2022-23

Reports on Tuesday stated that the NHL will put ads on jersey starting in the 2022-23 season and thank goodness this dance is over. Thankfully, the NHL has come to its senses and realized that ads are not a bad thing and that they’ll just be following in the footsteps of most hockey leagues domestic and internationally by getting ads on the jerseys.

This has been teased for a while with every Chicken Little hockey fans proclaiming the sky is falling at every mention of it. Well, we’ll see how they hold up with it becoming a reality. Everyone claims purity of the sport, but that died when they started using aluminum sticks and goalies started to cosplay as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. It’s about revenues, baybee, it’s about getting that salary cap up, baybee. They already have the sponsors on the practice jerseys, think of the money they could get for game jerseys.

It’s not greed, it’s capitalism, baybee, let’s go!!!

But seriously, this isn’t bad. This isn’t like a player going out to get their own sponsors to look like a NASCAR driver– though that’d be pretty awesome. It’s about activating more partnerships, getting money with the gates being down due to the pandemic that’s currently going on, and it’s about catching up with other sports leagues.

I can’t say with certainty, but I highly doubt the league would allow a sponsor to overwhelm a team logo, much like club soccer over in Europe. That’s not good for team branding and the NHL is all about that. The league will have parameters about contracts with sponsors and hopefully vet those sponsors; much like they did with the helmet ads. Plus, they don’t want to have teams switch sponsors year-in and year-out; though it would be a boom for the jersey industry.

To me, people who boycott the league for jersey ads are only using it as an excuse for not getting out of it earlier for much more heinous things that the NHL and their member teams haven’t addressed– either in part or as a whole.

The sun will come out tomorrow. Your team should have still shouldn’t have gotten rid of that one guy. Your team will still be one piece a way form a Cup. They’ll just have a little extra weight on their upper torso.

Twenty

August 8th, 2001 marked the first Face Off Hockey Show. Known just as “Face-Off,” it was a streaming radio show that pre-dates the iPod by two-and-a-half months– which is why we didn’t call it a podcast. It was a show that streamed live and thanks to code and all of that– it was made available as an on-demand stream. It was kind of ahead of its time.

If you were to tell me then that this show would still be going two decades later, I’d be a little apprehensive. At that time, Marc and I were both about to head to college, while Jon had a career already, and Sean was running the streaming business that hosted our show. At any time it could have just fell by the wayside because of life getting in the way. Hell, I moved to another country three years into the show, so needed to adjust and adapt to that was a big deal.

But we did just that. From VOIP phones to cell phone cards to Excalibur boxes, to then Hangouts On Air and now Skype– we’ve found a way to do a show every Wednesday (give or take two or three) from 2001 until the present. It’s been a way for us to keep in touch, it’s been a way for us to get/keep our names relevant in the hockey landscape, and it’s allowed up opportunities we might not have otherwise have taken. Granted, Sean has gotten plenty on his plate nowadays and really dropped off for a bit; the Pitzes and I have kept this train a-rollin’.

When you look at the 20 years or work we’ve done and the places we’ve been; the question that may come up and one that I always have is whether or not we feel we should be bigger in terms of popularity than what we have now??

Personally (since I don’t know what the Pitzes think), I do think we should be bigger. That’s easy to say when there’s a bias in it, but I mean– we’ve put in the work, the longevity, know some of the right people– but the wide-spread notoriety hasn’t happened for us. While that sucks, the core group of people who enjoy us seem to enjoy us a lot. Having that “underground” fan base is pretty cool and I love them to death. I just wish more people enjoyed us how our fans have enjoyed us.

We don’t play the game well. We never wanted to be the fake persona on the podcast or any kind of online presence just to be in the good graces of people. We know who we like, we want to talk to people who we like, and it’s kind of easy for us to pick up the people who might be great in some capacity in their own online bubble; but are people I personally don’t think I could be fake for if they were to come on the show. We know the people we gel with on the show and that’s why they’re a constant for us. But we also know who we wouldn’t gel with and I wouldn’t want to do a forced interview just to get listeners from their portfolio.

Another way we don’t play the game well is that we don’t mesh with the NHL ideology. That was never more noticeable when Jen (NHL History Girl) introduced me to former senior VP of communications for the league, Frank Brown, and to get the response of an icy cold stare and a “I know who you are” as a response to my introduction…pretty much shows why we as Face Off Hockey Show rarely get NHL credentials under the show name. The show hasn’t been credentialed since 2017. No reason why, no real idea why– but it is what it is now, I suppose.

Granted, I’m sure a lot of other bloggers and podcasts have been treated the same way. After the big internet boom of the late ’00s, early ’10s; the NHL has had to be picky and choosy about who gets what and where. Add that to everyone old beat writer joining The Athletic and doubling the coverage by team beats because of it– if you don’t have a big status; you’re not going to get into the show.

In any case, we still soldier onward. This show has been great for me to stay in touch with my friends back home every week and make me play pretend radio guy as a hobby for the past two decades. This has been a great time for me and I hope it continues for many more years to come. We have a great relationship with the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL, a solid relationship with the University of North Dakota, and made some pretty long-term friends/fans out of this whole thing. For me, someone who wanted to get into media since I was a teenager, I couldn’t think of a better time than these past 20 years.

Take care of yourself and someone else.

Mock (YEAH) Expansion (YEAH) Draft (YEAH)

The day that we all were waiting for is finally here– probably the last Expansion Draft of our lifetimes in the Seattle Kraken. For myself, I ran through plenty of mock drafts– mostly for shits and giggles and with not much real logic thrown into some of these picks. It’s really what I want to happen rather than what I think will happen.

The first draft was for the June 30th show of Face Off Hockey Show, when we all did drafts and NBC’s Sean Leahy judged them– mostly siding with Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey because those media elites stick together. For me, the big pick was PK Subban going to the Kraken because they needed a face to the organization and he is going to a contract year which he’ll probably do all he can in order to get a last contract.

I only made a second draft because the news of Carey Price being left unprotected in this draft was put out there. Sure, a lot of injury concerns coupled with an $11M bonus in September aside– why wouldn’t want to pick a goalie and build from the net out??

After talking myself out of it and plenty of free time to do it– a third draft pick was in there. For the Price draft, I had to get rid of Subban on there, but he’s definitely on there now with Price not in the picture for the third draft.

My final pick is what I’m going with. It’s without Price, and tweaks here and there.

It was a fun thing to do. This is something I’m not going to take seriously because I’m not getting paid to take it seriously. I’m not getting paid personally at all– just through the FOHS Patreon and that mostly goes to show things. So, sit back, enjoy the show tonight– should be a hoot.

Tepid Take: Somehow, Pierre McGuire Got His Front Office Gig

It’s taken a minute, but the Pierre McGuire news has calmed down a bit– so thanks to the wonders of having a day-job, my take is beyond late. Hence, a Tepid Take scenario. People were dumbfounded bu this move of Pierre McGuire going to the Ottawa Senators as Senior VP of Player Development. Many mocked the Senators for this move, many Sens fans were severely distraught, some Senators loyalist/media people are wondering who let the peanut gallery have a voice on who is and isn’t a good hire.

When it comes to this move…I’m optimistically skeptical. It’s a deal that would work out big, it could be a deal that works out horrible. There’s a lot of me who leans towards the latter outcome, but there’s some shimmer of hope that because the Senators haven’t been the best over the last couple years, this could be some kind of move that could turn the ship around…or not.

The only comparison I liken this to is when Tampa Bay hired Barry Melrose during his ESPN stint. Melrose was away from coaching and on TV for 13 years, coached in 16 games– in which he didn’t like Steven Stamkos being on the roster apparently– then he went back to the booth. McGuire could have that same fate, but at the same time– he might have a longer leash not being in the direct public eye.

For the gimmick that McGuire plays, he does know the players and prospects. The character of Pierre is over-the-top to a fault and trying to let people know where a player grew up– even if it’s hokey as all hell. But when you listen to him in other interviews out of character; he’s more toned down, more direct to his point, and does know how the game was played. And there’s a reason why I put a past tense there.

I make no secret that I’m not a big analytics guy as personal preference.I can see some of the points for its use in the game, but I’m not an overly math guy for fun. My day job throws enough numbers at me that my leisure time, I don’t want to be bogged down in equations and such. This, however, is McGuire’s job and whether or not he embraces the new way hockey is scouted will probably determine his tenure and legacy as front office guy.

During his media car-wash, he quote was “It’s not that I hate analytics, it’s that I believe in scouting. I don’t hate analytics. I think it’s a tool that can be utilized in any kind of scouting, but I’m a big believer in boots-on-the-ground scouting.” Daps and head-taps to Stephen Whyno on the transcription.

The whole “old school hockey guy” is dying out and McGuire could be what fully kills it if he messes this up. I understand his whole ideal of the “eye test” when it comes to scouting and maybe some analytics aren’t up his alley– but that’s the way it is now and you either adapt or go back to the booth. The key to McGuire is whether he completely dismisses analytics out-of-hand; which is a big mistake these days. Sure, there’s analytic darlings of the past who didn’t amount to much but folk-hero status; but that side of things could make or break a person in the player development role if they sign a guy for big bucks who passed the eye-test, but couldn’t hold up in certain situations on the ice.

While people dance on the grave of the NBC muppet going to the front office, it’ll be very interesting to keep track on the make-up of the Senators going forward. Maybe Eugene Melnyk is going all “Major League” on this team and hiring the worst possible people to sell the team and have it move somewhere else. It almost seems that way on the surface.

Another Turn in the Jack Eichel/Sabres’ Saga

Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Last February, I talked about Jack Eichel needing to be saved from his loyalty to the Buffalo Sabres. Given his exit interview from the 2020-21 season, he may be willing his way out of Buffalo. The long and short of it, if you didn’t see it all over the place Monday, the Sabres didn’t like the opinion of an outside doctor about Jack Eichel needing surgery on his neck and didn’t sign off on his procedure.

Just a reminder, June 30th, 2022 is the last day that Eichel doesn’t have a modifier on his contract for teams that may want to try and sway Kevyn Adams into a deal.

Even with the grudges and Eichel stating that he’s looking at next season “wherever that may be,” you can’t think he will be traded unless something really drastic occurs. I would say it’s hard for me to think that the Sabres would really trade their captain and one of their homegrown guys– but it’s the Sabres were talking about. They haven’t shown a track record of making the wise decision when it comes to the product they put on the ice and how they portray the team off of it.

Though they came around when it came to their on-ice performance after the firing of Ralph Krueger, it didn’t make up for the trials and tribulations they had to endure at the start of the season. Maybe Don Granato is the guy that, given a full season, could be the thing that turned Eichel around when it comes to the Sabres actually improving. But, again, when you have your captain upset with the way his health was handled after he seems overly frustrated with how they haven’t seen the playoffs since he’s been with the team– loyalty can only go so far when something like this happens.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Kraken have no assets to give back to the Sabres or else they’d be able to pull off a huge coup in trading for the Buffalo captain and making him their first player in franchise history. But that’s not likely the case. Plus, a $10M cap hit for the next five years in a flat-cap era doesn’t leave many contenders on the board that would make sense in actually picking up Eichel. Of course, if the the right offer comes along for the Sabres and they are better off in the future from the deal– they’ve got until next June to wheel that deal before Eichel has some say in where he wants to be moved, should that time come.

It’s getting worse before it’s getting better. That sucks for Sabres fans, who are beyond loyal regardless of how they are seemingly treated by the organization they love. If they were to trade Eichel, that could be the last straw for the fans who have held on for dear life to this team, despite their faults from the past.

An Open Letter to Turner Sports

To the Executives of Turner Sports,

Hey there– I’m Scott Wasilewski, AKA Scotty Wazz. Over the last 19.5 years, I’ve been podcasting about hockey on Face Off Hockey Show. Much more than hockey, it’s a show about life with three hosts who’ve grown up together in life and in the broadcasting world.

Look, I could spout off numbers about how we’re in the top-20 all-time of hockey podcasts on Apple Podcasts or all the events we’ve been a part of whether it be with the NHL, AHL, ECHL, WHL, NAHL, or IIHF. I could tell you I’ve personally have written for FHM Magazine or had articles published on Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog in its heyday. But honestly, what does that do other than being self-serving and egotistical.

Let’s get down to brass tacks– we need each other.

You might not know it, but there’s a lot of recycled voices out there in hockey. If it’s not recycled, there’s a lot of parrots out there in the hockey community. Face Off Hockey Show doesn’t have that….okay, we might recycle jokes to death, but that’s a different meeting for a different time. The point is that our outside-the-box points-of-view is something we use to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the other voices out there in the loud landscape. On top of that, our crew all were born in Maryland– an nontraditional hockey market. Turner Sports is, to some, an nontraditional hockey broadcast partner.

With your company starting fresh in the NHL broadcasting landscape, what better way to do it than with some fresh voices on the network?? Not only that, but you look at the chemistry of Ernie, Kenny, Chuck, and Shaq on your NBA property– I’m not saying we’d be that by any means– but we could bring that energy, analyst, and light-hearted banter that people can relate to.

There’s a unique opportunity, TS– can I call you TS?? No?? Okay, Turner Sports overlords. This is a chance to give a different look to normally mundane hockey broadcasts or presentation of the game above the dull, robotic, run-of-the-mill stuff we already get from the game. Plus, it’s a big chance to revamp what the broadcast could look and sound like with this new seven year deal.

ABBA said it best when they said, “You can dance, you can jive…”

Wait…no, that’s not it. Whatever the lyrics from “Take a Chance On Me” that would be poignant in this situation– that’s what I’m going for here.

The point is this– we’ve been at this for a while now. We have the credentials to show for it. All we need now is the backing to prove to the masses what we’ve proved to our loyal listeners/watchers/readers for decades now. Fresh faces, fresh network, fresh presentations. And maybe this is a time for a fan-centric angle to be at the table of some of these broadcasts and be a different voice in the room.

Feel free to slide into my DMs to chat some more.

Take care of yourself and someone else: Scotty Wazz

PS: My co-host Jon Pitonzo and I are big AEW fans as well, so– if that helps any….

NHL and ESPN Are Together Again

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, NHL fans may be getting what they want with ESPN signing a new deal with the NHL to become on of their media partners starting next season. ESPN will get rights to four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028 and streaming rights to the league. The NHL and NBC deal ends at the end of this season and plenty of people were clamoring for the NHL to go elsewhere. It may look like they’ve partial gotten their wish.

The NHL hasn’t been a regular entity on ESPN’s family of networks since 2004, they have had games on ESPN+ over the past couple of seasons, as well as beefing up their coverage of hockey thanks to the work of Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski, as well as Chris Peters– who was let go from ESPN during the pandemic. With NBC Sports Network going dark in lieu of PeacockTV, it only makes sense that ESPN would pick up the lead in this for the TV side.

While this does seem like a step in the right direction, the issue remains whether or not it’ll tip the scales all that much and if we’ll actually get a change in the teams being broadcasted. The biggest issue when the NHL spurred ESPN for the old Outdoor Life Network was because ESPN didn’t see the NHL as a money making entity and low-balled them on a new deal. Has that sentiment changed at all?? Maybe. Honestly, though, I don’t see the NHL getting as much screen time on a network that is jammed up with other, more profitable for the network sports.

It would be great to have the ESPN talking heads be all about the NHL and yell and bitch on their overpaid showcases of hot takes that mimic a talk show– but I don’t see that happening. If nothing else, the NHL gets more exposure due to the notoriety that ESPN has over other sports networks. That said, I don’t see it really tipping the needle in terms of exposure to the sports for people since the NHL will move to fourth on the depth chart of sports over the defacto top spot they had on NBCSN. Granted, it was the NHL or Meecum Auctions, so the competition of the networks wasn’t that stiff.

Yet, when you think about it– the numbers could be slightly better just due to reach, but outside of that– who knows what that could bring. You have to think that an NHL Tonight type show will be around; but outside of that– what’s it going to take for people to notice the NHL on ESPN?? More importantly– how long before NHL fans bitch about not receive the coverage they think they should get on the World Wide Leader??

In the grand scheme, this is an upward move– how can it not be?? ESPN is everywhere and they have a multitude of platforms on the TV side that people can get to on cable and whatnot. Streaming rights are what they are, which makes me wonder if things don’t go swimmingly or other leagues start to demand more, if that was a safety net installed to put the NHL on ESPN+ when all is said and done and only use ESPN or ESPN2 for the bigger events. This also doesn’t account for who the other partner would be for the other half of the NHL rights and how those two will co-exist.

But for not, strike up the National Hockey Night theme and relive the good-old days of hockey on ESPN.

NHL Outdoors Was Great, Don’t Expect It Again for a Bit

The Lake Tahoe games happened. Aside from the sun being the mortal enemy of ice on Saturday– you’d have to say it was ultimately a success. The sights, the sounds, the kayaks– all of it was solid for the viewing public. That was ultimately ruined by Rutledge Wood, but we take what we can get with NBC’s budget on hockey for sideline reporters. It was super enjoyable, especially in a year we didn’t think an outdoor game would happen.

Odds are we won’t be seeing that for a good while.

With this “NHL Outdoors” branding, there are four different outdoor games that can occur now: Outdoors, Heritage Classic, Winter Classic, and Stadium Series. The only one that you can’t utilize in a league that needs all the money it can muster is the Outdoors concept. The rest of those are in over-capacity venues that will provide solid revenue for the league, while this Outdoors concept seems to be the one that is where there’s little to no fans. That way, the ad wizards at the TV license holder can pat themselves on the back when they keep using the ideal of “taking the game back to its origin” and remind us of all the players starting out on the pond playing hockey.

There’s a good chance that next season, we’ll have PLENTY of outdoors games– assuming people will be let into buildings to watch sporting events. When the NHL had the shortened 2012-13 season, they made up for the lost half-season by holding six outdoor games the next year and made some good cash off of that to put into the Hockey Related Revenue. For some reason, I could imagine that number at least doubling because of all the lost revenue from the pandemic not allowing capacity crowds into the buildings. They need to start to break even some how.

Which is why the Outdoors idea will only come into play when the league has the money it need and has a setting and teams that are remote enough that little to no fans will be in. We’ve joked on the Face Off Hockey Show about the idea of the league putting the game on an aircraft carrier like the NCAA did with the Carrier Classic or the WWE did with trying to slam Yokozuna. I mean, if they can make ice anywhere, the aircraft carrier is far too perfect, while also serving their want/need to hold games at military venues as they did at the Air Force Academy and Naval Academy.

Everything was perfect for this event to take play and give a way to have an outdoor game in a pandemic. But it’s only because they couldn’t have fans anyway and the golf courses weren’t actively being used in February. Just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen for another five years or so and everything is stabilized. Then you can have stories of how people tried to break into the closed event.

Divisional Sponsors Are My New Favorite Thing in the NHL

The NHL is getting that bread, gamers, as they announced divisional sponsors for the upcoming shortened season. Scotiabank (North), Mass Mutual (East), Discover (Central), and Honda (West) will be the presenting sponsors of the divisions in a move to not only recoup losses from lack of box office, but maybe add another way to get hockey related revenue into the game.

Rumors have this as being a one-and-done thing given the oddity of the upcoming season…but why?? Why turn a potential money-maker into a one-year events when you have to think there’s sure to be hiccups going into the 2021-22 season, as well, when it comes to attendance.

As someone who covers NASCAR, I love the idea of sponsorships being a thing. Do they run sports?? Sure, just look at how arena naming conventions are and then try to debate me on this and helmet decals ruining the purity of the game. It’s also some more money coming into the league. Like I said with the helmet decals— until capitalism dies, this is the way to go. And what a smart way for the NHL to go about it by pretty much selling everything they can and say it’s only for a year. If it gets people talking, if it creates more marketing opportunities, if it’s generating dollars…why kill it after one year.

The NFL doesn’t do this, nor the NBA and MLB. But you have to wonder if the NHL is going to blaze the trail for getting money out there in a new way.

Sure, these sponsors are already in the NHL’s pockets with other deals and this was probably a small raise to their rate already, but it’s a start. If this could garner interest in new sponsors coming in to the game, why not?? Plus, the intrigue of whether or not a company will renew their divisional rights and who could swoop into getting them. In NASCAR, this happens all the time, it’s a hoot to see where companies are going and what companies come into the fold. Not only that, but think of the trickle down in the minor leagues. The AHL and ECHL probably would want some of that money into their leagues.

I’m all for this being a thing always and forever. If this league relies on money to stay alive, why not search out every avenue in which to make it?? If it flames out after a year, fine– you made the money you needed. If it keeps going, however, I think it’s the best for business because once that money goes into HHR; every then will benefit in some way, shape, or form.

Helmet Ads Are Here and They’re Fine

Photo via Washington Capitals

Stop bitching about company logos on helmets. Stop bitching about the idea of company logos on jerseys. This is the 21st Century and it’s an inevitability it was going to happen in hockey– so just sit back, grit your teeth, and let it take you in. The NHL is going from ads on practice jerseys to helmets and it’s just another evolution of the sports business. You’re not a traditionalist, calm yourself.

The Washington Capitals announced they’ll be one of the first teams to have sponsors on their helmet, with Capital One on their helmets. The New Jersey Devils also announced they will have Prudential on their helmets. Both of those sponsors are the sponsors of the team’s arenas.

The minor leagues have done this for decades and it’s what has kept them alive. Many minor league hockey fans may not even notice them today because they’ve been such a part of the uniform. Some junior league teams have ads on jerseys to help off-set costs and get their name out there more in the community. It’s how brands do things and it’s just a small part of how sports are done masquerading as a game and being more open about being an actual business– if you hadn’t figured it out before.

Nathan Fournier of the Lewiston Sun-Journal made mention of NASCAR drivers and if those fans were pissed off when company logos were displayed on cars and fire-suits for the first time. I counter with the fact they probably weren’t mad; but felt closer to the driver and team because they bought the certain sponsor or ate at the restaurant on the fire-suit.

Yes, the European sports leagues have logos every which way but loose, though that’s more of a situation where sports aren’t the big moneymaker there and the teams need everyone dollar to pay the players and survive from year to year. North America doesn’t necessarily have that problem, so they can make small patches doable. Of course, you’ll have people out there trying to make a mountain out a mole hill claiming traditionalism and the sanctity of the sports– but it’s a business. It needs to make money to survive. Until capitalism dies, this is how it’s gonna be. I will say, I don’t think the NHL is as stupid than to make their member teams have their crest be dwarfed by a sponsor on the jersey. They’re silly geese in the NHL offices, but not that silly.

The NBA has made plenty of money with it and the MLB have tried to dip their toes into the waters, why shouldn’t the NHL; especially considering the times we’re living in and the unknown of when they can have full arenas of people– not only by lifting of restrictions, but people’s willingness to spend money they may not have budgeted for and go out in public during a pandemic.

Your team is going to have the same color and pattern to their jerseys, they’re going to still have the same players out there, there’s just addition Hockey Related Revenue on their person to make the game more profitable, which raises the salary cap, which allows more players to get paid, which allows less transactions due to a stagnant salary cap.

To quote Gandhi (or was it Ric Flair), “Whether you like or don’t like it, learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going today. WOOOOOOOOOO!!”

Pretty sure that was Gandhi.